English for Academic Purposes (EAP) as a Niche Opportunity – Interview with Denise Patience

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is a type of course that is designed to prepare international students for academic study at university level. EAP classes are usually taught in a language school or institute by an experienced teacher with specialized knowledge of the subject.

The main aim is to provide students with the skills necessary to pursue their chosen course of study and to help them overcome any difficulties they may have in understanding lectures, reading books for their studies, using library resources, or writing essays.

I was recently fortunate to get in contact with Denise Patience, who has been a language educator in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to international students at RMIT English Worldwide (REW) since 2015.

What’s your professional background, where are you now and what are you doing currently?

I am not really your typical teacher! I started teaching French in secondary schools but left after 3 years. Since then, I have mostly been self-employed, working freelance as a producer in the film industry, and then having my own retail business. As many of your followers will know, being footloose and fancy free has many advantages, but the downside is that income is irregular, and saving money almost impossible. As I approached retirement age, I thought I should get myself ‘a real job’, with a regular salary, and try to build up my savings.

So, in my early 60s I decided to return to study and do my CELTA. Fortunately, after finishing, I was able to get a teaching job very quickly, working in EAP.

Can you explain in broad terms what EAP means and what it is?

The English for Academic Purposes program is one that international students can complete prior to going to a university. In basic terms, it enables students to achieve the pre-requisite level of English language prior to commencing their university studies.

In Australia, most universities will offer this course for international students. I have only worked in one such place, RMIT English Worldwide (REW) – RMIT is the name of the university here in Melbourne – so cannot speak for other countries or institutions, but I am sure they are all very similar in purpose.

The REW program offers courses at seven levels, from Elementary to Advanced Plus. Skills that are taught include the development of academic and language skills and study skills, with materials relevant to academic coursework and professional goals. Each level of study consists of 200 hours, which takes 10 weeks full time to complete.

How is it different from the IELTS Exam, the TOEFL Exam, the Cambridge Exam etc.?

Students are able to use the results from the exams you mentioned, providing they have reached the desired level for the university course they wish to follow, and providing the results are not more than 2 years old.

If they haven’t reached that level, they will need to keep studying and doing exams until they do, OR they can join an EAP course for their desired university, which ultimately will allow them to segue into their chosen course without further English exams.

Students will also be learning other competences which may not be taught, or are quite different, in their own country. For example, they are taught the standard structure for an English essay, how to do referencing and citations, and how to participate in tutorials etc.

What outcomes are students looking for when they enroll for EAP study?

Students who successfully complete the Advanced Plus course can go straight into many RMIT university programs without having to complete a further English test such as Pearson’s or IELTS (Academic), and this is why they enroll. They also have the experience of being immersed in the target language in a foreign country.

What is required to become an EAP teacher or private coach?

With regard to EAP teacher employment, teachers would need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, teaching qualifications, and usually EAL qualifications such as CELTA or TEFL, or an equivalent. REW has many teachers from different countries and educational backgrounds, so the actual qualification names may differ.

Regarding one-to-one EAP coaching, this would be done on a private basis, ‘out of class’, and content would be tailored according to the needs of an individual student. We have some on-staff private tutoring positions, but the ratio of teachers to students is very low – like one staff per one hundred and fifty students. So, there is plenty of scope to offer students additional support. The main requirement would be to have a strong knowledge of the EAP curriculum.

Conclusion

Prior to the COVID pandemic, EAP courses around the world were increasingly popular. Students from the Middle East, China and other Asian countries represent a large part of the demand for such academic study preparation. So, although the current industry situation may be difficult, with borders closed and “education abroad” largely put on hold, there is every reason to be optimistic that this sector will bounce back strongly in the coming years.

If you are interested in being an EAP online coach, right now is the best time to start positioning yourself and building your personal brand authority.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions for Denise about English for Academic Purposes as a teaching specialization or private coaching niche.

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2 thoughts on “English for Academic Purposes (EAP) as a Niche Opportunity – Interview with Denise Patience”

    1. Hi Richard. That’s a great question.
      A question which literally this ENTIRE blog is dedicated to answering. So feel free to check out more articles and podcast interviews. Maybe that will offer some ideas.

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